PITTSBURGH -- To an outsider - or someone in a Pittsburgh Piratesuniform - it might have seemed John Burkett was dealing from the bottomof the deck.
But the Braves pitcher, who knows more card tricks than pitches,never lets his victims see what's up his sleeve.
Burkett, who has arguably been the Braves' most consistent pitcherthis season, jump-started this 13-day, four-city, 12-game odysseyFriday night by holding the Pirates to three hits and a run in seveninnings in a 5-1 win before 34,230 at PNC Park.
As always, Burkett's pitching spoke volumes. A 9-3 winner over thePirates last Saturday in Atlanta, he didn't allow a hit until JasonKendall's bloop single with one out in the sixth, and held the Piratesscoreless until he surrendered a home run to John Vander Wal in theseventh.
Burkett, who had no-decisions in two of his last three starts,allowed one baserunner in the first three innings, then slipped out offourth-inning jam following Chipper Jones' error on Pat Meares' bouncerwith strikeouts of Aramis Ramirez and Vander Wal.
The Pirates, who advanced one runner beyond first base in the firstsix innings, broke through against Burkett in the seventh. Vander Wal'shome run (No. 8) came on a 1 and 2 delivery, followed moments later byKevin Young's double. But the threat died quickly as Enrique Wilsonflied to left and Emil Brown tapped out.
It's been nine years since the Pirates won anything, and since thena once-mighty franchise has lost future Hall of Famer Barry Bonds, andan average of 88 games in each of the last five seasons.
The Pirates, owners of the major league's second-worst record (onlythe Devil Rays are worse), haven't been able to do anything rightagainst the Braves since 1991, which is the last year they won a seasonseries from the Sons of the South.
Still, they weren't an easy mark last weekend in Atlanta, losing toGreg Maddux 1-0, and beating Tom Glavine in the Sunday finale 6-3. Pirates starter Todd Ritchie, who has failed to win any of his fourstarts in the Pirates' new digs, invited trouble in the second when hefell behind Chipper Jones 3-and-1, then came with a fastball. Jones,who homered twice in Tuesday's win, whacked his 15th home run of theseason, a 443-foot drive that landed in the home bullpen beyond thecenter field wall.
If the Braves had paid attention to details, they would have stakedBurkett to a 2-0 lead in the fourth. But Andruw Jones' failure toadvance Rafael Furcal, who started the inning with a double, provedcostly as Chipper Jones flied to center, and B.J. Surhoff rolledout harmlessly to shortstop Wilson.
In the fifth, the Braves doubled their production in a mostunlikely fashion. Catcher Paul Bako, subbing for the under-the-weatherJavy Lopez, launched a 2 and 1 offering over the center field wall,just his fifth hit of the season, his fourth for extra bases.
Furcal led off the sixth with a double. Andruw Jones ripped anotherdouble past the dive of center fielder Brown, then Chipper Jonesdelivered a triple to the 410-foot nook in center to make it 4-0.Jordan tapped to first, but Surhoff greeted reliever Terry Mulhollandwith a sacrifice fly, and the Pirates were done.